Think not for whom the second career beckons, it beckons for these…

As Europe slides half-heartedly into a mire of its own making, we too often forget that those whose unique skill set has caused it do have other interests in life. In this USO Slog Special, we examine the hidden talents of those whose lamentable inadequacy for the job of continent-running probably means that they need a second career anyway – so why not forge one out of the hobby?

Manuelo Barroso. Phtotographer. Later this year, just too late for the Christmas market, Senor Barroso will launch his first book of photographs, Conference Tables. In choosing this unique subject, ‘Snapper’ Barroso explores the fundamental design of these wooden objects, in many ways inviting us to compare this to the people assembled round them. “Tables are what life is all about,” he notes in the preface to this collection, “They are lifeless and yet, in some oddly predictable way, their presence invokes the same quality in people like me. Without tables, none of us would be where we are today. And speaking personally, I have no idea where we are today. Anyone seen the news this morning?”

Mario Draghi. Gardener. Although such a passion might seem strange for this high-powered dealer in bathroom tissue, Signor Draghi gives the lie to that assumption. “Gardening about helping the things to grow,” he insists, “and central banking is exact same. One casta de seeds of destruction everywhere inna de garden, and then when they appear as the weeds, the horny-handed leveraging of my green fingers comes good, eh? This is trouble I find with dollars these days, dee green come off. I try everything, but it no budge”. As an aide offers Mario a tin of Swarfega, he waxes lyrical about the garden owned by Tim Geithner just outside Washington on his new estate, West Virginia. “That Tim he is very nice boy, he make a dee small nuts grow into enormous Redwoods, 200 foots high, almost as big as that cool guy Johnny Redwood. But ees ver’ sad, every time the bad wind she blow, Tim’s trees they are falling down.”

Angela Merkel. Fridge fancier. The German Kanzlerin has been collecting fridges for over thirty years, and now has an entire annexe – attached to her house ‘Westfailure’ – with over 450 models on display. She initially realised her passion for refridgerators when, on leaving her first husband one morning, the Frau Doktor found herself loading only the fridge into the van she had spontaneously hired for the purpose*. “Nothing freezes better than a fridge,” she told Time magazine last week, “I am a very passionate person, it is the first requirement of politics to shaft everyone with a passion, but when the big decisions come I must be ice-cold. Sometimes I sit in my 1958 Hungarian Magyar Mark IV for days on end before meeting Greek persons. It keeps me cool”. And this is indeed the unique feature of a refridgerator: to render cool somebody who could never in a million years be thought of as cool.

David Cameron. Front bottom Collector. Although not in the eurozone as such, David Cameron must be considered as central to the European Project, given that he has already coughed up £184 billion to bail out the common currency, and he has both the sort of obliging attitude likely to chuck plenty more in that direction, as well as a spinal injury rendering him incapable of ever pulling out of the EU. “I first started collecting front bottoms at Oxford,” says the Prime Minister, “the chap’s name was Hunt,and he remains the most complete example in my collection. But I quickly added to my hoard at Bullingdon with George Osborne.” Later, as David inherited lots of money and was given a leg up to his first job in the media, he was able to indulge his hobby with a broader sweep. “I realised there were front bottoms everywhere, not just in politics,” he enthuses, “And it was about this time that Senior Front Bottom Osborne introduced me to Rupert Murdoch, through whom I met the finest examples in my collection, Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. Until recently I did have a very fine Baroness Warsi, but sadly one of the servants dropped her last week. On retirement, I propose to donate the entire collection to the Metropolitan Police, including myself”.

Herman van Rompuy. Poet. Herman’s talent for Nipponese doggerel is perhaps the least hidden of the senior euro élite’s spare talents. “I am very humble about my verse,” says the self-effacing Belgian, and this humility is fully justified by every line of the painstaking works now pulled together for his first anthology, The Sound of eurozone Bondage. We could do worse than show an example of Mr. van Rompuy’s poetry, although it would be hard. But here’s my favourite anyway:

One day I went to Tokyo in search of EU money

I asked a Chinaman for some, he seemed to find it funny.

I met a man in Poland who said “Get a big bazooka”

I couldn’t get one so instead I’ve grown my own veruca.

I am like a bonzai tree, so rootbound in its pot

I’m bored now so I’ll simply say “Aye-aye, and that’s yer lot”.


*Astonishingly, that bit is entirely true.

If you enjoyed this, you’ll almost certainly like Rajoy and Draghi enjoy a game of stinky-ball tennis